The Old Shelter

Dieselpunk Roaring Twenties. Sarah Zama's Author Blog

Thursday Quotable – Medicine River

“That’s strange, Will. Can’t imagine Harlen missing this.”
Neither could I. Harlen went to everything. He went to all the powwow. He went to all the funerals. He went to all the weddings, the births and most of the court cases. Any time there was a gathering  of two or more Indians in a hundred-miles radius of Medicine River, chances were one of them was Harlen.

Thomas KingMedicine River

quotation-marks4Medicine River is an incredible book. It merges the short story and novel media to create a story that is complete even in its episodic nature.

Harlen Bigbear is the story’s strongest character, in my opinion. One of those characters you learn to know slowly while you read, because he’s so complex you can’t take him all in at once. Although I believe his relationship with the main character Will really makes the character shine.

The story number “seven”, which tells about how Harlen and Will first met, is my absolute favourite in the book. It makes me laugh and cry and it’s just very moving. Harlen is a friend of Will’s brother. When his mother dies, Will goes back to Medicine River for the funeral and that’s when he meets Harlen the first time. This is one of the first dialogue they exchange.

“My job’s in Toronto.”
Harlen turned the radio down a bit. “Can’t see Ninastiko from Toronto,” he said. “So, when you think you’ll be moving back home?”
“Sure. Most of us figured that, with your mother and all, you’d be coming home soon.”
There was no logic in it, but my stomach tightened when Harlen said home.
“James says you take picture. People pay you for doing that?”
“Well… yeah.”
“You take the pictures of all those disasters that you see in the newspapers?”
“No, I take pictures of people mostly. Weddings, portraits, things like that.”
“That’s good. We got a lot of people out here but not many disasters. You could start your own business, you know?”
I told Harlem I liked Toronto. There were good restaurants, places to go. Things to do. Medicine River was small.
“American Hotel is a great place for a beer. Baggy’s just opened a sit-down restaurant. You got the Rockies, too. You see over there,” Harlen said, gesturing with his chin. “Ninastiko… Chief Mountain. That’s how we know where we are. When we can see the mountains, we know we’re home. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that?”

Thomas King – Medicine River


Did you like this quote? Here’s a few things you might want to do.

  1. Head over to Bookshelf Fantasies, who sponsors the Thursday Quotables, and join in the fun.
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2 thoughts on “Thursday Quotable – Medicine River

  1. I’m intrigued!

  2. It is an unconventional book. I’ve read many reviews saying there is no story. The story IS there, but you have to listen very carefully if you want to catch it. You have to get inside the book. Then you’ll see the story 🙂

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